Sunday, October 5, 2014

Help Me Help You

I have a problem.  You see, people are often coming to me for advice that I am very unqualified to give.  I am very empathetic, so others often come to me with their problems.  I then listen to them and sometimes worry myself into anemia.  (Just kidding - I was already anemic.)  As a child, I was very affected by movies, even if they weren't real.

This is an example of a conversation that took place several times throughout my childhood, and probably at least once last month:
"What's wrong, G?"
"Stomach hurts."
"But why?"
"Dorothy's not in Kansas, and her aunt and uncle have lost their house.  I don't know what they're going to do."

Dramatic Reenactment of Me as a Child

Now, I have to ignore the news and try to be selective about which problems I tackle on a daily basis.  The real problem is that my brain doesn't want to help me with this.  My brain has spent years building up information it thinks would be useful so that I can share this information with others who need my help. There are many folders stored in my brain, full of song lyrics, movie quotes, scientific studies, passages from books, things I assumed to be true as a child.... (Actually, this folder is quite full of things, like how I assumed people prayed to Granite Jesus, that God's first name was Andy, and that the opposite of broad daylight was narrow nightdark.)

It's rare that any of the information is actually useful to a real-life problem, but my brain lies in wait, anyway, ready to hand out bad advice like Halloween candy.  My brain has started operating on a keyword search system, where it goes through the files based on what someone has asked.  Unfortunately, the most relevant answer is not usually the one that comes out first.  So a conversation begins, and I blurt out something someone has never even heard of that is also most unhelpful.  I may even switch search terms in the middle, trying to find some comment to apply to the situation, but eventually I just bring the words out more slowly, using up the last bit of hope I have that I could ever be understood by humans.

Friend:  I mean, I'm not ready to date again.  I don't even think I would know what to do.  How does one even win a girl's heart anymore?
Brain: Search query - win + heart + girl
Me:  The Bard of Stratford on Avon!
Friend:  What?
Me:  Uh...Brush up your Shakespeare, and the women you will wow.
Friend:  I don't know what you're even talking about.
Me:  Odds...bodkins?
Friend:  I really don't see how this is going to help with my problem.
Brain:  Search query - dating + problem
Me:  If you've a date in Constantinople, she'll be waiting in Instanbul.
Friend: *slowly backing away*
Me:  Oh, bugger.

Because this happens frequently, I feel like I should set some ground rules so that I can keep a few friends.

1.  Don't ever ask me for advice.
2.  If you do ask for advice, please use any advice given for entertainment purposes, only.
Exception:  If you are on fire and ask for advice, you should probably Stop, Drop, and Roll when I yell it out to you.  That is genuinely helpful advice that I feel qualified to hand out.

In fact, I feel like I've been over-prepared for Stop Drop and Roll for a long time (not that I would ever wish for anyone to be on fire, and especially not in my presence).  As a child, I remember going over the words many times in school, as if the adults in charge were afraid that we would stumble upon some man on fire in the street, and we would yell out, "Stop, Collaborate, and Listen!  Oh wait!  No....that's not it.  Hold on - I'll remember it in a minute!"
For those of you wondering, I was that kid who pointed out that Sparky was wearing a flame-retardant suit, which gave him a pretty unfair advantage.

I realize that it was important information for children to know and be able to recall, but to an anxious child like myself, each time we repeated the lesson I felt like seeing people on fire was going to be a normal part of adult life.  The truth of the matter is, it's probably the most useful bit of information I can think to yell out in any given instant, and yet, I've not had to say it even one time in all my life.  That figures.

So from now on, whenever people ask me for advice and I find myself unable to relate to them in words that make any sense, I'll probably just end it all with Stop, Drop, and Roll.  It may not be relevant, but at least it will be useful.